Entertainment

How The Daughter Of ‘The Muppets’ Creator Produced ‘Yo Soy Taíno’ A Film About Boricua Strength

The devastation that Hurricane Maria left in her wake in Puerto Rico continues to affect the lives of the residents, many still recovering from the lack of access to basic necessities. The death toll was estimated to be more than 4,000 and the island remains vulnerable since the 2017 ravaging but the lack of assistance from the U.S. led director and animator Alba García to work on a project to elevate Puerto Ricans and Taíno culture.

She’d been approached about the project by Heather Henson, owner of IBEX Puppetry which showcases the art of puppetry, and daughter of famed puppeteer and creator of The Muppets, Jim Henson. 

After Hurricane Maria and seeing the devastation while visiting her family, she knew she needed to take the project on and Yo Soy Taino (I Am Taíno or Dak’toká Taíno) was born.

“I was devastated for my Puerto Rico, the land where I grew up,  and the land I love Suddenly, it dawned on me that Puerto Rico wasn’t getting enough attention, that food and other necessities weren’t arriving to remote areas. I knew then that something was very wrong. I saw that most of the help we weren’t getting was due greatly because of our colonial status and old laws that keep Puerto Rico subdued,” García wrote on the Indiegogo page for the project. 

Though her previous experience is primarily in stop-motion animation, Garcia’s collaboration with Henson meant she’d be able to represent her culture in a new format through puppets.  

The 13-minute informative short film premiered on HBO Latino July 1 and features dialogue in both Spanish and Taíno. It centers around an exchange between Abuela Yaya, a Puerto Rican grandma voiced by Amneris Morales, and her 10-year-old granddaughter Marabelí, voiced by Vianez Morales after Hurricane Maria. 

Their discussion turns into a teaching moment where Abuela Yaya introduces Marabelí to the Taíno language and explains the multiracial heritage of Puerto Ricans which is a mix of Taíno, Spanish, and African. 

“Our desire is to inspire a revival of the Taíno culture and restoration of our Taíno Borikenaíki ancestral language as our ultimate goal,” García wrote. 

To prepare for the film and to ensure authenticity she worked with  Anthropologist Dr. Yarey Melendez, founder of the Naguake schools in Puerto Rico, who currently teaches a restored version of the Taíno language.

Also, Luis Ramos a Taíno Community leader, a Bohike (Taíno Healer) and Activist of Naguake community.

To ease the young girl’s fears after Hurricane Maria, the abuela recounts how their Taíno ancestors survived colonization and the problematic relationship with the U.S., with sentiments strongly in favor of independence. 

Though Puerto Rico is recognized as a U.S. territory, it was an independent nation in 1897 when Spain approved the Constitución Autonómica. But by mid-1898 the U.S. invaded Puerto Rico after declaring war on Spain and it marked the transference of dominion. 

The U.S. failed to properly assist the island after the hurricane, leaving many areas without power for months despite Puerto Rico’s governor’s request for federal assistance.

“Our story needs to be told especially now because our people are dying and some remote areas still don’t have water or power,” she writes. 

“We Boricuas won’t go away. We will rise,” Yaya says in the film. 

Check out the video below!

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Who Is Mari Pepin? Everything You Need to Know About the Puerto Rican Beauty Queen and ‘The Bachelor’ Frontrunner

Entertainment

Who Is Mari Pepin? Everything You Need to Know About the Puerto Rican Beauty Queen and ‘The Bachelor’ Frontrunner

As you probably know by now, a new season of the never-ending reality series “The Bachelor” has just started.

And this season is destined to be especially exciting–not just because of the promise of non-stop drama, but because the franchise has finally hired its first Black male lead, Matt James, after 18 years on the air.

And with the first Black “Bachelor” comes the most diverse group of contestants competing for the lead’s heart that they’ve ever had.

And one of the contestants that is capturing the hearts of both fans and Matt James alike is 24-year-old Puerto Rican-born pageant queen Mariela “Mari” Pepin.

On this season’s premiere episode of “The Bachelor”, Mari was immediately clocked by viewers as one of the front runners by the way that Matt reacted to meeting her. The former Wake Forest wide receiver was struck speechless by her beauty and couldn’t keep his eyes off her when she parted ways with him. It was obvious that Mari had made quite the first impression on him.

And because we love to see #representation on screen (and especially on reality TV), we decided to do our due diligence and find out as much as we could about this gorgeous and accomplished Latina. Here’s everything you need to know about Mari Pepin.

She’s Boricua–and proud of it!

Something that immediately endeared Mari to fans was the fact that she is so vocally proud of being Puerto Rican. In her first sit-down conversation with Matt, she opened up about how hard its been for her family to live through the relentless natural disasters that the island is going through.

She’s a military brat.

According to Mari’s personal blog, she spent the first few years of her life in PR before relocating to Germany because of her father’s military career. According to Mari, her unique childhood contributed to her love of traveling as an adult.

She was 2019’s Miss Maryland USA.

According to Mari’s official “Bachelor” bio, she began competing in pageants when she moved to Maryland as a teenager. She won Miss Teen Maryland and then went on to win the title of Miss Maryland. After that, she placed in the Top 10 of the Miss USA competition.

She’s wicked smart.

According to Mari’s LinkedIn page, she has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from Towson University and she’s currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Marketing Intelligence from the same institution. It’s safe to say she values education.

She’s multilingual.

Not only does Mari speak both Spanish and English flawlessly, but she’s also fluent in French and American Sign Language.

Based on all this info alone, we can’t wait to see Mari Pepin crush this season of “The Bachelor”. Hopefully, this Boricua beauty will be popping up a lot on our screens for years to come!

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Bad Bunny Talks Depression And Says Sometimes He Still Feels Like The Boy Who Bagged Groceries Back Home

Entertainment

Bad Bunny Talks Depression And Says Sometimes He Still Feels Like The Boy Who Bagged Groceries Back Home

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Bad Bunny is on top of the world. Or, at least, that’s how it appears to all of us on the outside enjoying his record-breaking year. Not only did he release three albums in 2020 but he also landed his debut acting role in the Netflix series Narcos: Mexico and from his Instagram stories, he seems to be in a happy, contentful relationship.

But like so many others, Bad Bunny has his experience with mental health issues, of which he recently opened up about in an interview with El País.

Bad Bunny recently spoke up about his struggle with depression.

Despite his immense success that’s catapulted him to, arguably, the world’s biggest superstar, Bad Bunny admits that sometimes he still feels like the young man who bagged groceries in a supermarket.

The reggaetonero revealed in an interview with El País that right as his career really started to take off, he was not happy. “You asked me before how I hadn’t gone crazy. Well, I think that was the moment that was going to determine if I was going to go crazy or not. From 2016 to 2018 I disappeared, I was stuck in a capsule, without knowing anything. The world saw me, but I was missing,” he said.

Although no doctor diagnosed him, he is sure of what was happening. it only did he feel lost and empty but he had stopped doing many of the things that brought him joy, like watching movies and boxing. Without realizing it, he had also fallen out of contact with much of his family, with whom he was typically very close.

“And that’s when I said: who am I? What’s going on?” he told El País. When he returned home to Puerto Rico from spending time in Argentina, he was able to get back into the right state of mind and remember who he was.

Despite his success, Bad Bunny still worries he’s in financial trouble.

Although today, he is the number one Latin artist on Spotify and the awards for his music keep coming, there are times when Bad Bunny still thinks that he has financial problems.

“Not long ago, I was 100% clear in my head what I have achieved, maybe a year or six months ago; but until then, many times I forgot, I felt that I was the kid from the supermarket. He would happen something and say: “Hell!” And then: “Ah, no, wait, if I have here,” he said, touching his pocket.

Much like Bad Bunny, J Balvin has also been candid about his own mental health struggles.

Bad Bunny is just the most recent to speak to the emotional havoc he experiences despite being a global superstar. And, thankfully, like many other celebrities, he’s been able to find refuge in a reality that allows him to keep his feet on the ground so that he too can enjoy the achievements of his career.

Much like El Conejo, J Balvin is known for the brightness of his style and mentality. But he’s long addressed the importance of caring for one’s mental health. During his Arcoíris Tour, he encouraged people to not be ashamed of seeking professional help, and let the audience know they are not alone.   

“Las enfermedades de salud mental son una realidad. Yo he sufrido de depresión y he sufrido de ansiedad, así que tengo que aceptarlo. Y eso me hace más humano, me hace entender que la vida tiene pruebas,” Balvin said. “Pero si alguien está pasando una situación difícil, no están solos, siempre llega la luz. Tarde o temprano llega la luz.”  

“Mental health illnesses are a reality. I have suffered from depression and anxiety, so I have to accept it. And this makes me more human. It makes me understand that life has challenges,” Balvin said in Spanish. “But if someone is going through a difficult time, they are not alone, light always comes. Sooner or later, the light comes.”  

We need more men like Benito and J Balvin to speak up about their mental health struggles, to help destroy the stigma that exists within our community.

And in the same interview, he also spoke about why he works to elevate the Spanish language.

As for the possibility of singing in English, the answer remains the same: a resounding no.

“You have to break this view that the gringos are Gods…No, papi,” he told El País. And, although he’s collaborated with artists like Drake, Cardi B and Jennifer Lopez, he has always sang in Spanish and with his famous accent.

“I am very proud to reach the level where we are speaking in Spanish, and not only in Spanish, but in the Spanish that we speak in Puerto Rico. Without changing the accent,” he said.

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